WNBA star Brittney Griner’s defense team has appealed her conviction for drug possession in Russia, nearly two weeks after she was sentenced to nine years in prison by a Moscow court.
Her attorney Maria Blagovolina said Monday that the defense team had filed the appeal, in a statement via the Telegram messaging app. The move, widely anticipated, comes as Russia and the United States discuss a possible prisoner swap that would secure Griner’s release.
The American basketball player was arrested at a Moscow airport on February 17 after authorities said they found cannabis-infused vape cartridges in her luggage.
Griner, 31, pleaded guilty to the charges but said she made a “honest mistake” by entering Russia with cannabis oil, which is illegal in the country, after hastily packing for her flight.
She was sentenced to 9 years in Russian prison on August 4 after being found guilty of drug possession and smuggling, following an emotional final plea for leniency.
The US government has maintained that Griner was wrongly detained.
According to two sources familiar with the matter. But Russia has shown no sign of accepting the offer and has rejected Washington’s decision to publish it in an effort to increase pressure for a deal.
However, Russia said it was ready to discuss the possibility of a prisoner swap after Griner’s conviction.
A senior Russian diplomat confirmed over the weekend that the above names had been mentioned during bilateral talks.
“The discussion on the very sensitive topic of the exchange of imprisoned citizens of Russia and the United States is taking place within the channels set by our presidents,” said Alexander Darchiev, director of the North American State Department. of Russia, in an interview with the state news agency TASS. He added: “The names mentioned are really being thought through.”
Darchiev said Moscow “has long been seeking the release of Viktor Bout”, but said: “The details should be left to professionals, based on the principle of ‘do no harm’.”
Darchiev has credited the approach with helping facilitate the “quick and successful exchange” of former US Marine Trevor Reed, who was convicted in Russia of assaulting a police officer, for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko.